Dec. 20

11:37 AM

A Deleted Scene from The Folly of the World (With Spoilers, Obviously)

It is just about two years to the day since my novel The Folly of the World was published, and in honor of such an admittedly inauspicious occasion I've dug up one of the rough chapters that didn't quite make it into the final draft. In the course of its development this book underwent far more radical alterations than my previous two novels, with literally hundreds of pages left on the cutting room floor, but this bit allllllllmost made it into the book...and being one of the last to go, it fits with the final product, so I don't mind sharing it. By contrast, I don't think I'll be displaying any of the chapters which featured Jeanne d'Arc macking on Jo or Gilles de Rais turning into an eel-monster--like I said, this book went through some pretty extreme mutations along the way. This particular chapter would have appeared midway through the novel, as one of the first sections from Sander's perspective after we find out he's passed himself off as Jan but before things take a turn. With no further ado, then, here is a chapter that almost was, but wasn't.

Excised Chapter: “It is Healthy to Piss on a Fire”

His Worship Graaf Jan Tieselen had an appointment with the honorable Laurent Denize scheduled for noon, but Sander decided to blow off his lawyer in favor of a rat hunt. Laurent would be irritated, and so would Hobbe, whenever Laurent complained to the Count, but they could both kiss the Devil’s ass, and Sander’s besides—the rain had finally let up after a solid week of drizzly nonsense, and that meant the rats would be out in force down at Trash Island. Throwing open the shutters and letting in the sun, Sander eschewed his pot and pissed out the window, admiring the play of light on the long thread of gold unspooling from cherry cock to cheery canal.

Had his father ever made his water from such height? Doubtful, unless the dastard had climbed a tree just to drain the eel. Jan might have, in his youth, but Sander got by very well these days without speculating on dead men in general, and not the one that made him queasy in particular. Let the past stay in its grave. Was that something people said? They should, it made more sense than a lot of the nonsense folk jabbered on about. He shook off with a flourish, and waved to a pale lad in a window across the canal. The young man pretended not to notice, pinning up red curtains that promptly fell in front of him, like a lolling dog’s tongue obscuring its tooth. Funny how many houses across the way had put up curtains of late—real winter was still a long way off, knock the sill and make a prayer.

Sander was in high spirits as he dressed himself in fine rose leggings and a cream jerkin, but the smudges of grease on the tasseled elbows of his umber coat made him frown. Lansloet was neglecting his duties. If the miserable old skeleton thought his master didn’t know what he got up to on his attic expeditions he was even dafter than Sander suspected. Whether a man chose to spend his leisure time jerking off in a loft was his own business, but by the love of Lizzy and the rest of the saints he’d properly clean Sander’s gear before waxing his own.

            Wait a breath—who was that handsome rake on the east wall, looking as fine as a flower? Funny, as much time as he’d spent in the well as a boy he’d never really taken the time to inspect his reflection, never had much notion at all of how he might appear to a random set of peepers. Or his own, come to that. Admiring himself in the tin mirror framed to look like a stylized sun, Sander frowned. His left eye had a thick pea green goopus pooled in the lashes. Disgusting. The bowl on the dry sink beneath the mirror was cold to the touch. Lazy sack of beggars’ bones. Lansloet must have realized that Sander rarely washed in the mornings, and had taken it as an excuse to slack on providing hot water.

            “Thinks I’m some witless cunt, doesn’t know old from fresh,” Sander muttered as he daubed the edge of his sleeve into the bowl and pressed it to his face. The eye was itchier than usual, but after a few passes of the cuff he’d got all the slime off it. Blinking in the mirror, he looked back at the picture of genteel good looks—roughly trimmed goatee and mustache, with a fashionable shadow of stubble filling in the rest of his neck and cheeks, yellow teeth flecked with only a little black, steel blue eyes shot through with crimson squiggles, wiry nose hair barely protruding from their caves. Looking good!


            No answer. Sander stalked around the room, finding the wool trousers he’d worn out to the inn the night before and removing the whole belt rather than fucking with the purse’s tight knot. He fit the leather strap above his hips and cinched it well before buckling—stupid leggings didn’t have belt loops, he’d have to see that Lansloet or one of the wenches took care of that next time he wasn’t wearing them. The purse still had some jingle to it, so he couldn’t have had too good a time at the White Horse.

            “Lansloet!” Still nothing. Dour old goat reminded Sander of his grandfather, always just sitting there and staring like a toad that might be dead or might just be daft. He left his chambers and contemplated the narrow stair leading up to the attic. Place was big as a castle yet theirs were the only two rooms on the second story, his at the back of the house and Jo’s at the front, meaning if Lansloet was hiding up there he was trapped.

But no. Better to check downstairs first—Sander was increasingly of a mood to let himself grow properly angry before confronting the servant, and nothing would piss him off more than discovering that Lansloet had been above him the whole time. He stomped to the end of the hall, giving Jo’s door a vicious kick before heading downstairs. Lazy bitch would sleep the day away, give her half the chance.

“Lansloet!” Sander’s heels bounced loudly down the narrow stairs and he skipped the last few altogether, landing beside his boots in the foyer. There were voices drifting through the break between the recently repainted double doors of the study, and he looked to the rack by the front door. There was a thick, pearl-hued cloak hanging from the end, and a swagger stick of matching white ash propped against the wall beneath it. That son of a faithless fuck.

 No matter, he wasn’t caught yet. Lowering himself as quietly as possible onto the bottom step, Sander shoved his feet into a pair of polished turnshoes. It would be muddy as the Devil’s garden out there but his boots would take too long to get on, and this venture called for haste as well as silence. Buggers were tight as new tail, but they’d let him in soon enough. If he’d untied them at the start it would have been easy, but now that he was committed he’d just have to—there!

Standing up, he heard the discussion in the study come to a pause. They were no doubt looking to the study door. They could stare forever like a pair of stinking statues for all he cared, he’d never heard them at all. He’d have to pop by Poorter’s to borrow a bow since all of his were either in there or back up in his room, but dealing with the pudding-wrangler was a small price for avoiding Hobbe on as fine a ratting day as they’d had all autumn.

A chair squeaked in the study as somebody rose, but they were too late. With a satisfied grin Sander popped the latch and dashed out the door, leaping down the front steps like his ass was one fire and—

—nearly careened into Laurent, who was wiping some shit from his shoes on the bottom of the stoop. The lawyer stumbled backwards with a surprisingly dignified squawk as Sander tried to avert his course mid-flight, flailing his arms and coming down in a crouch on the cobblestones beside Laurent. For a moment the old buck rabbit impulse came on Sander, to punch this jester in the poffertjes and make a run for it down the street, to dash through refuse-crowded alleys and over narrow stone bridges until he hit the harbor, and then away, away, over river and meer, through field and forest, away, away…

“Graaf Tieselen,” said Laurent, with a rude little bow that was so mocking in its posture that Sander had half a mind to slap the dirty swindler before reminding himself that Laurent treated everyone with the same shabbiness, even Hobbe. Hey there, that was a rather appealing hat he wore—was it velvet? Nice stitching, very nice.

“There you two are,” said Hobbe from the doorway of Sander’s house. “I heard a commotion, and made to run off whatever hounds were screwing on your step.”

The lawyer said something in his native French to the Count, and they both had a laugh while Sander straightened back up and weighed whether or not to attack these ticks, here and now, damn the consequences. He wasn’t some toothless grampa to be mocked at his own home by a Frank and a wank, and his hands clenched to fists at his slightly doughy sides. He was going ratting, by all the saints, and these assholes would eat street before they stopped him.

“Come, come,” said Laurent, shaking his wide, leather document valise at Sander. “When you didn’t make our appointment I knew I’d better bring the contracts to you. This so-called Bumpkin you’ve been cozying up with is going to make us all a rather tidy little profit, and I don’t want to give him time to reevaluate his commitment. Graafs as gullible as he are not so common as sheep who walk on hind legs, yes?”

“I…I missed our appointment?” said Sander, allowing the older man to take his elbow and lead him back toward his house. The blue sky was treacherous as a cloak of the same cloth, apparently—what time was it? “What time is it?”

“Later than you think,” called Hobbe, retreating back into the foyer. “I was just telling Jolanda, we have much to discuss when Laurent is done with you.”

Sander paused on his step, desperate for escape. None to be had. Wait, who the devil was that? A shadowy figure was watching them from down where the lane bent to the left, but Sander immediately set his jaw against the notion—he was only shadowy because of the afternoon sun, only watching because that’s what people did, watch each other. Like this pair of crows was always minding him, minding his cellar. Minding his larder.

“I was thinking we’d all dine together, yes?” Hobbe’s voice drifted out of the doorway.

“Excellent,” said Laurent before Sander could splutter out a protest. “These will take us at least until the food is ready, but I don’t see why you shouldn’t oversee the contracts as well, Count Wurfbain. After all, without your facilitation I don’t suppose we could have sewn up the arrangements so neatly, though I hear our dear Graaf Tieselen did a wonderful job brokering the initial deal.”

“I did, didn’t I,” Sander said, looking forlornly down Blaakstreet to where the curious stranger had moved on around the bend. The empty cobble lane was set with gems of azure sky and mousy white clouds where the shrinking puddles reflected the heavens. As fine weather for ratting as was ever ruined by the schemes of goddamn ponces. The Graaf Jan Tieselen reentered his grand house, and did not emerge again that day.

Happy holidays, everyone, and may your proverbs always stay proverbial!

Apr. 2

1:21 PM

Lovecraft! Lovecraft! Lovecraft!

Popping in after a ridiculously long hiatus to make a couple of quick announcements before going back down into deep cover...and hey, both'em of relate to Old Uncle Howie. Will try to be better about updating this dusty site, but for now a quick entry on the fly'll have to do.

First up is my editorial debut, Letters to Lovecraft. It's an anthology of original stories written in response to HPL's essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature," and will be put out later this summer by Stone Skin Press. It's been a real blast to work on the back end of a book for a change, and I'm rather chuffed with how it all came together--it's going to have 18 stories by some of my favorite working authors. More details are here in the official press release, and I'm sure I'll make some more noise about it here when it comes out.

The other thing that needs mentioning with the quickness is the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon, which takes place next weekend. I'm going to be attending as a guest, and doing a reading at some point. Once I find out the time and room number I'll post an addendum and update the sidebar, but for now suffice to say I'll be in attendance and would love to meet all and sundry who also make it out. A friend gave me a VHS copy of Lurker in the Lobby: The Best of the HPLFF over a decade ago, so this has been a con I've wanted to hit for a long time but never before managed. Should be epic--I love Portland, and I love some Lovecraftiana, so let's do this!

Oh yeah, and since there's three Lovecraft's in the title, have this. Cheers!

Oct. 15

12:41 PM

New Projects, Readings, and a Con Appearence

It's been a long time since I dusted off the blog and made an update, but it's getting to the point where I couldn't put it off any longer, as I've got some things coming out imminently and am hitting up a con this weekend. There are also a couple of Big Things that I hope to be able to announce sometime soon, but I'm increasingly wary of announcing anything until it's reached and breached the point of no return, so will hold off on those for now. In the mean time, though, here's what I've got coming down the pipe:

"Escape from the Mummy's Tomb"--a new short story for Jurassic's anthology The Book of the Dead, edited by Anne Perry and Jared Shurin. It "will be published in collaboration with the Egypt Exploration Society, the UK's oldest independent funder of archaeological fieldwork and research in Egypt, dedicated to the promotion and understanding of ancient Egyptian history and culture."

As if that wasn't neat enough, here's what the limited edition looks like: "100 hand-numbered, hardcover copies, with gold embossed titles on midnight blue buckram, dark cream endpapers. The Book of the Dead limited edition is bound (literally) in cloth and sealed in wax, impressed with the seal of the Egypt Exploration Society. This edition also contains an exclusive illustration by Garen Ewing that will not appear in any other edition. Because of its unique construction, purchasers of the limited edition will also receive a copy of the ebook for free."

So yeah, stunning limited edition, beautiful illustrations by Garen Ewing, and all new stories for a good cause by myself, Gail Carriger, Molly Tanzer, Maurice Broaddus, Adam Roberts and many more. Here be all the ordering information, and check out Ewing's illustration for my story:

BoD - EscapeFromMummysTomb

"The Devil's Tontine"--a new story in Stone Skin's anthology Schemers, edited by Robin Laws. As with all Stone Skin projects, this anthology has a broad, interesting theme: plots, and the plotting plotters who plot them. I understand the stories run the gamut of genres; my own piece is a Gothic homage set in Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole's infamous folly of a castle. Other contributors include Ekaterina Sedia, Tobias Buckell, Molly von Tanzinghauer, Jonathan L. Howard, Nick Mamatas, Tania Hershman, to name a few, and you can find more information here or pre-order it here, as it drops November 14th.

"Dive In Me"--a new story co-written with S.J. Chambers for Stone Skin's anthology The New Gothic, edited by Beth K. Lewis. Selena and I go way back to Small Times, so we decided to write something inspired by our occasionally overlapping grungy adolescences in North Florida. There's a bit more about it here, and here's the pre-order link as it also comes out on the 14th. In terms of who else is in it, the only two names I know for sure are Richard Dansky, who I know worked on a bunch of World of Darkness books, and, um, Ramsey Campbell.

"The Door From Earth"--a reprint story appearing in Deepest Darkest Eden, an anthology of stories set in or around Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborea, edited by Cody Goodfellow. I believe all of the other pieces in this collection are new, written by such badass new gods as Marc Laidlaw, John Shirley, Lisa Morton, Nick Mamatots, Zak Jarvis, and many others; my piece was an odd case, as it actually fit the theme perfectly despite being previously published, and Cody graciously let me take part. This was especially rewarding as I was always less than satisfied with the version of the story as it was originally published, and so it was a rare treat to be able to restore it to its intended form. Here be the ordering info, and hey, check out that rad throwback cover!

(fun fact: in high school I had a pet frog that I named Tsathoggua)

Also, today is launch day for Wonderbook, a new writing guide by Jeff VanderMeer and Jeremy Zerfoss. Jeff had a load of different authors chime in on this or that for the book, so it should offer a wide range of takes on a wealth of different topics, all crammed with neat diagrams by Zerfoss. By request I'm posting the excerpt containing my own small contribution to the project--Jeff asked a mess of authors to briefly talk about the revision process we underwent on a particular project. These responses were then Zerfossized into cartoon snakes with the number of drafts we went through appearing in the snake's eyeball. There's a whole dedicated website here.


So them's the short writings I've got coming down the pike, but before signing off I did want to mention a couple of upcoming appearences I'll be making in the Denver area. First up is Mile Hi Con, which is next weekend. I'm only doing programming on Saturday, but should be down Friday if anyone is around and wants to knock glasses. My Saturday schedule is as follows:

11:00 AM--Noon: "Strong Women in Fiction and Film" Panel
1:00--2:00 PM: Reading (Paired with Eric James Stone)
4:00--5:00 PM: "Best Fantasy Films" Panel

Plus lots of barconning, I'd imagine--of you see me, say hello! Or just scowl at me and walk away, that works, too.

And finally, on Saturday, October 26th, I am taking part in a group reading at Mutiny Information Cafe, a bookstore and coffee shop in Denver. The reading starts at 6 PM, and I'll be joined by Margaret Christie, J. L. Benet, Robert Davis, and DJ Death Fez. Here be the flier, it's free and should be a lot of fun:

books and funk

The Latest Books.

The Folly of the World—US Edition

Cover of The Folly of the World—US Edition

On a stormy night in 1421, the North Sea delivers a devastating blow to Holland: the Saint Elizabeth Flood, a deluge of biblical proportions that drowns hundreds of towns, thousands of people, and forever alters the geography of the Low Countries. Where the factions of the noble Hooks and the merchant Cods waged a literal class war but weeks before, there is now only a nigh-endless expanse of grey water, a desolate inland sea with moldering church spires jutting up like sunken tombstones. For a land already beleaguered by generations of civil war, a worse disaster could scarce be imagined.

Yet even disaster can be profitable, for the right sort of individual, and into this flooded realm sail three conspirators: a deranged thug at the edge of madness, a ruthless conman on the cusp of fortune, and a half-feral girl balanced between them.

Available for Purchase at:

The Folly of the World—UK Edition

Cover of The Folly of the World—UK Edition

Available for Purchase at:

The Enterprise of Death—US Edition

Cover of The Enterprise of Death—US Edition

Available for Pre-order at:

The Enterprise of Death—UK Edition

Cover of The Enterprise of Death—UK Edition

Available for Pre-order at:

The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart - US Edition

Cover of The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart - US Edition

Available for Purchase at:

The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart - UK Edition

Cover of The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart - UK Edition

Available for Purchase at:

Upcoming Events.

Oct. 26: Group Reading at Mutiny Information Cafe

Group reading at 6 PM, deets in last blog post...

Oct. 19: Mile Hi Con

I'll be at Mile Hi Con in Denver--for details of my schedule there, just check out my most recent blog entry!

May. 31: Denver Comic Con

I'll be a guest at this year's Denver Comic Con--hope to see you there!

Oct. 31: NOT ATTENDING World Fantasy 2013—Brighton

Update: Though I'd hoped to make it over for this, it's just not in the cards this year. Alas!